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101-year-old church in Greensboro to hold last service later this year

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GREENSBORO, N.C. – A 101-year-old church in Greensboro will hold its last service this year.

Members of Florida Street Baptist Church decided to shut down earlier this summer, but the space isn't going to waste.

Back in its heyday, 1,000 parishioners would pack into the church on Sundays.

"Chairs in the isles, the choir loft platform was all full, the balcony, it was overflowing," said Interim Pastor Kevin Kilbreth.

Now, when he walks through the sanctuary, things are different."

"It is a mere shell of its former glory," Kilbreth said.

The 101-year-old church shuts the doors for good in December.

"I just felt like Florida Street would go on and on, but like a lot of other places (pause) we all get older," said Louisa Weaver, a church member.

The congregation slowly dwindled over the decades, now down to just 20 members.

"I don't know how it happened," Weaver said. "It just seemed like a lot of folks just sort of drifted away. The neighborhood changed, people moved away."

It's leaving behind decades of history, and a congregation searching for a new church to call home.

"It's beautiful to see in this situation, which is emotion-packed for our people, is that in the midst of the sadness of the church dissolving, there's the beauty of seeing God bringing new life that continues to make an impact in the Glenwood community," Kilbreth said.

That new life is Hope Academy. The private Christian school will take over the church's buildings. It's leased the space there for several years, and as the size of Florida Street Baptist Church has diminished, the school has flourished.

"Hope Academy is a story of new life, where it looked like death," Kilbreth said.

Many of the 50 fifth- through eighth-graders enrolled in the school live in homes in the Glendwood neighborhood.

"These students have different students that they have to go through in their lives, but this is a place where they get to be comfortable and feel safe and just learn and have a good time and learn about the lord as well as become educated," said Sherrica Stanley, the student life coordinator at Hope Academy.

The school takes students who are behind or at their grade level and propels them forward, helping them get into magnet high schools and move on to college.

"Working to bridge that gap," said Josh Mullins, the head of schools at Hope Academy.

"This is a place where students get the opportunity to become generation-changers," Stanley said.

There aren't many services left at Florida Street, but now when Kilbreth looks at his church, he sees a story of hope and a new way to continue the church's legacy and serve the Glenwood community.

"That's what Florida Street has been, for all of its history," Kilbreth said.

Hope Academy plans to use the space handed over by the church to expand its programming and open up an elementary school.

Florida Street Baptist Church's last service will be December 31.